With the season ending before the month of September begins, IndyCar needs to hire a few individuals from Hollywood to come up with story lines that will draw eyeballs despite the atrociously long break. IndyCar needs to script silly season.
This offseason is a shot for IndyCar to systematically break news. How many times has IndyCar announced something on a Friday at 7:30 p.m? Instead of burying news in the weekends when it will be forgotten before it is ever known, break news midweek in the middle of the afternoon when there is an opportunity to maybe get noticed on the Richter Scale.
The NBA has done a great job of hijacking the airwaves when the first game of the season is four months away. IndyCar won't reach that level and you really don't want to reach that level (because it is absurdly over the top and feels like an agenda is being crammed down your throat). You want to stay in the public eye, which IndyCar is rarely in unless a driver is injured, fatally injured, a fan is injured, you get the picture. IndyCar is almost never in the spotlight anything related to the on-track action, which is arguably the best in the world. This could be the chance though by shaking up the pot.
Shall we start writing the story?
Let's start with the Simon Pagenaud to Andretti Autosport rumors. I like Pagenaud at Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports. SPHM is legitimately a contender with Pagenaud challenging the big boys of Penske, Ganassi and Andretti but I think him leave to a known championship winner sets up for a great story. Don't have him jumped into a fifth car though. He is going to replace somebody. It won't be Carlos Muñoz. No one would give a damn if Muñoz lost a ride. It won't be James Hinchcliffe. As much as we think Hinchcliffe is a big deal, other than in Canada his loss would barely make a blip on the Ricther Scale. It won't be Ryan Hunter-Reay. While it would be noticeable if the defending Indianapolis 500 winner and possibly two-time IndyCar champions was fired, Hunter-Reay has busted his butt after being screw out of more rides than any driver currently in the paddock. He deserves his job security.
That's leave Marco Andretti. Think about Andretti losing his ride. It is IndyCar's equivalent of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. leaving DEI. Earnhardt, Jr. wasn't winning when he left the team his father created. Andretti currently isn't winning for the team his father controls (although he is in a lot better of a position than Earnhardt Jr. in 2007). The Andretti names is noticeable and having daddy show you the door will get some heads to pop up. Here is a kid that is no longer on the gravy train and going to have to get rich on his own or get busted. That's the storyline you want. The choice of water over blood. Bye bye Marco, hello Pagenaud!
Don't worry Marco, it ends well for you. We need Marco Andretti in IndyCar. He need the Andretti name. He will land at the vacant seat at SPHM. It creates the revenge factor. Son getting back at father. Team getting back at former driver who left for greener pastures. SPHM isn't a bad team for Andretti to head to. It will be a change of scenery but might be for the better. And it sets up the family reunion story line about five to six years down the road.
Next story line.
In true, blue Ganassi form, the same way he showed Maurício Gugelmin, Bryan Herta and Tomas Scheckter the curb after one season, Ganassi sends Tony Kanaan packing. Let's face it, Kanaan is done being a top tier driver. We are seeing that by him being smoked by Juan Pablo Montoya who was gone from IndyCar for 13 years. He can get a win but he isn't going to be contending for championships. Enter Sage Karam. The Pennsylvania Phenom. The future. The guy who went from 31st to 9th on Indianapolis 500 debut. This is the opportunity Karam deserves and IndyCar needs a young American in a top seat. He will be 20 years oldwhen the 2015 season begins and could become the face associated with the #10 car for a whole generation which is something IndyCar needs long term.
What would be a nice story line for Kanaan? How about landing at Bryan Herta Autosport to team with Jack Hawksworth? He would be pairing with his former teammate at a team another one of his former teammates won the Indianapolis 500 for. Plus, longterm in mind, Kanaan could head to BHA and become a mentor for Hawksworth and another mentor for Bryan's son Colton as he is on his way to IndyCar through the Road to Indy. It wouldn't hurt to get a young driver a Indianapolis 500 winner and IndyCar champion to oversee his progression up the ladder.
Ganassi isn't the only big teams shaking things up. Will Power is bound to lose another championship. I am sure The Captain is getting tired of that. Year after year, all the speed in the world but no trophy to show for it. Should that be the case, why not write in a shake up? Penske shows Power the door. He sees the speed Josef Newgarden has shown and gives him a prime seat with a prime sponsor while paying Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing handsomely, insuring their future for years to come. Will Power reunites with KV Racing and forms a formidable pairing with Sébastien Bourdais. With the healthy pay day from Penske, SFHR jumps ship to Chevrolet and with help from their old friend Ed Carpenter gets JR Hildebrand back into IndyCar full-time.
Finally, IndyCar needs to make a splash. They need to sign someone from outside IndyCar and bring them in the same way David Beckham came to MLS. I'm not exactly sure who that will or should be but it wouldn't hurt IndyCar if they did it. Sign a driver for four to five years to go head-to-head with IndyCar's best and make a few visits to IndyCar's markets. I don't care who it is or where they are from. Snag Carl Edwards, Jamie McMurray or Marcos Ambrose from NASCAR. See if you can get Jenson Button or Nico Hülkenberg from Formula One. Adding talent to the series is never a bad thing and if they already have a healthy fan base behind them, all the better.
To recap, IndyCar should script spicing it up. Get drivers moving around. Burn some bridges. Give some drivers opportunities they've yet to have and bring in some new, experienced blood for everyone to keep an eye on. The same old, same old driver line ups year after year isn't interesting. Shake it up. People want something to look forward to and shuffling the deck would do that.